It’s happened to everyone: you’re bored out of your mind on some lazy Saturday and you find yourself watching an old sci-fi movie on basic cable. There are robots, flying cars, ray-guns, and all manner of different gee-whiz gadgetry. Just as the stilted acting and plastic space-pods make you reach for the remote, you suddenly realize that we still don’t seem to have any of that stuff.
I’ll concede, we’re a little behind schedule. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey told movie-goers we’d have moon-bases and weekend jaunts into space 8 years ago! And not to rag on Detroit while they’re down, but Back to the Future II promised us flying cars by 2015; something tells me I should hold on to my deposit.
However, a gizmo dream deferred is not a dream denied, and many of these ideas (and others Spielberg never thought of) were just waiting for modern computer power and know-how to catch up. Here are our top reasons to be excited about the next decade…
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
Robots of every conceivable shape, size and purpose are being developed in Japan, but the ones programmed to gladly tend to our every need or desire are the ones that interest us here. Those who want all of the service but none of the wry British humor of real butlers should keep an eye on robots like the Amio. Its voice recognition software and roughly human build are the earliest steps towards a lifestyle George Jetson would be proud of. But Jeeves probably isn’t worried; most of these C-3PO level efforts are not available to the public, and it’s probably cheaper to hire a real butler. http://www.gadgetreview.com
“Roads? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads…”
Christopher Lloyd uttered these immortal words at the end of 1985’s Back to the Future, right before the wheels of his sleek time-machine folded sideways and the car began to take flight. While the film’s Silver Delorean may be the most famous flying car, the idea has made a cameo in many sci-fi films both before and since.
Enter the Terrafugia Transition. While it lacks the sleek lines of a sports car, its odd design enables it to take flight without movie magic. The front wheels pull the bean-shaped cockpit down the road until you get to the airport. Flick a switch, and anyone with a sport pilot license can taxi to the runway as the wings automatically expand and the rear-mounted propeller winds up. While labeled a “Roadable Aircraft” by the folks at Terrafugia, we all know a flying car when we see it. You and a buddy can fly the friendly skies for $194,000 when the Transition is released in 2011. For now, you can reserve your place in line to purchase one for a mere $10,000. http://www.terrafugia.com/index.html
If you have a fear of flying, then you might want to check out the Aquada amphibious car. Rivaling anything James Bond might have driven, the Aquada turns from streamlined sports car to powerboat in a matter of seconds. Push a button, drive into the water, and your 100 mph sports car turns into a 30 mph speedboat. On land, the only give-away that something is odd about the Aquada is the driver’s seat, which sits forward and in between the two passenger seats. Maybe those two friends can chip in towards the $142,000 asking price. In return, you can let them pick the color, as long as it’s black, yellow, or red. http://www.gibbstech.com/aquada.php
Make Like a Tree
For those perfectly satisfied with keeping their cars on land, but just wish they could do it cheaper and greener, we recommend the Nissan Leaf which will be available in 2010. This is the first mass-produced, all-electric vehicle since GM’s mid-90s doomed EV-1. No hybrid shenanigans here, just a straight electric powertrain you charge overnight. In the morning, you have 100 miles of estimated range to roam with no tailpipe emissions. The Leaf itself is a reasonably attractive five-door, looking reminiscent of Nissan’s Versa. No specific price has been announced, but most estimates put the car in the high 20s to low 30s; and rumors abound about the very expensive battery pack being leased separately to help control the price tag.
If you admit the inevitable end of DVDs but aren’t quite ready to pony up the cash for a Blu-Ray player, then Universal’s BD-59 flip disks might be your ticket. The disks have a complete DVD version of a movie on one side and a complete Blu-Ray version on the other. These versions have all the special features and other goodies of a non-flip edition, but now when your boyfriend walks in the door with a new Blu-Ray player, you won’t have to toss that hot release you just picked up. You can pick up the first flip disks – Matt Damon’s Bourne trilogy - on January 19th. Pricing has not yet been set.
The 3-D Eyeglasses
James Cameron’s Avatar will be a blast no matter how it’s seen, but the biggest “Oo’s” and “Ah’s” will probably be coming from the 3-D theater. Today’s 3-D tech has come a long way from the headache-inducing scream fests of yesteryear, but as anyone who has been to a recent 3-D offering can attest, the nerdy styling of the glasses is still as painful. Until now. LOOK3D is here to make sure we can attend the coming wave of 3-D movies in style, with their collection of cool frames and lenses. Some even offer interchangeable lenses so you can wear your glasses all the time without looking like an extra from Blade Runner. Pricing is unannounced.
The 3-D Home Edition
But who needs a 3-D theater when you can get the 3-D experience in your very own home? Time to toss that pitiful HDTV you just bought, because Panasonic and Sony are both coming out with 3-D Capable TV’s. Expect the first 3-D home invasions to start next year. Unfortunately, you won’t get to use those sweet shades you just bought from LOOK3D, because the TVs produce their effect with special battery-powered glasses that rapidly alternate what each eye sees. Pricing is not yet available, but don’t expect them to cost much more than what a comparable LCD/Plasma set costs.
So what could possibly send Home 3-D TV the way of the dodo? Try Holographic Television. Nothing says you’ve arrived – in the future – like a 3-D hologram of your favorite movie. Unlike the 3-D televisions above, the effect isn’t an illusion. For example, if you walk behind a holographic actor, you’ll see his back. With a 3-D TV once you move too far the effect is lost. Plus there are no goofy glasses, just your favorite movies and TV shows being played out in your living room. Unlike 3-D TV, however, this technology is still in the highly experimental phase and will likely not become commercially available until the latter part of the next decade. As for price, expect the first ones to be expensive.
Showering, Au Natural
Ever wonder about all that water that flows down the drain when you take a shower? Me neither. But with designer Jun Yasumoto’s “Mini Ecosystem Phyto-Purification Bathroom” you won’t have to. Yasumoto’s design looks even odder than it sounds; it features a wash basin surrounded by a moat filled with different plants. Mimicking nature’s own filtration system for water, each water plant cleans different particles from the shower water.For now this living shower is just a concept, but the ideas behind it are sound. No word yet on whether any company is willing to make Yasiumoto’s design a reality.